Geog:90020 Risk Management & Public Participation
RM&PP is my Masters level subject, taught in Semester 1 at the University of Melbourne. It has received great student feedback in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and I encourage anyone interested in the subject to get in touch. The full subject syllabus can be found here: geog90020-subject-information-2017
This subject will provide students with the skills needed to examine, analyse, and report on risk management and public participation. The subject addresses the primary challenge of risk management, which involves determining what stakeholders want, analysing how they interpret risks, and understanding how their knowledge shapes behaviour. Added to this very complex topic is the question of how governments can attempt reshape that behaviour.
The subject will require that students decide whether – or to what degree – they believe in public participation. This is a problem with no ‘right’ answer, and so students will be free to advocate ‘complete public empowerment’, ‘tokenistic manipulation’, or some combination or context-dependant approach. Regardless of their beliefs or intent, students will be expected to consider their approach and to be able to justify the way(s) they interpret Risk Management & Public Participation.
The subject will review the history of academic risk research from a social science perspective, drawing together literature from Geography, Sociology, Engineering, Psychology, Economics, and the Sciences. It will integrate risk research with studies of public engagement, paying particular attention to public knowledge and to the management of complex socio-ecological problems. As often as possible, the subject will allow students to apply the lessons and arguments from class to issues of their choosing; the assessments, as well, will offer students the ability to integrate their interests with the themes of the subject.
The subject is organised and will be delivered around a weekly session. These three-hour blocks will be divided into tutorial, application, and lecture portions. The tutorial portion will, for each student once during the term, require a presentation and group activity in which students will be expected to apply their learning and be critical of the topics being presented (see assessment below for details). The application portion will often involve guest speakers and will emphasise ‘real world’ application of the weekly theme. Finally, the lecture portion will present additional or alternate interpretations of the theme and provide an opportunity for broader commentary and connection to the over-arching subject objective (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Visualisation of the subject themes (roughly aligning with weeks of instruction) and their purpose.
While there are no prerequisites, a basic familiarity with the risk literature will be beneficial.